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Contest Challenges Northwest College Students To Break Secret Code

Central Washington University
Here's a challenge from the 2013 competition.

Code language is probably as old as language itself. Now, two Northwest professors have launched a competition to test students’ code-breaking skills.

Called Kryptos, the competition is geared toward undergraduate students all around the Northwest. But the region’s high school students are also encouraged to try and break the codes.

Stuart Boersma, a mathematics professor at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, says most of the codes can be solved with paper and pencil, or with the help of computers.

“You don’t have to be great at math to do well in this competition," he said. "Anyone who likes puzzles, word games, Scrabble, crossword puzzles might end up doing pretty well.”

Boersma is organizing the competition with professor Cheryl Beaver at Western Oregon University. He says many of the challenges are based on historical ciphers that pre-date World War II.

Prizes include: code-breaking books, movies and the pure glory of being a Northwest code-breaking champion.

The brain-game runs from April 10 through April 14.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.